On 22 November at 15:00 Gerdien Margreeth Grootens will defend her doctoral thesis „Leadership of Peripheral Places: a Comparative study of Leadership in Estonian and Dutch Peripheral Places“
Professor Maaja Vadi (PhD), University of Tartu
Assistant ProfessorLummina Horlings (PhD), University of Groningen, Netherlands
Associate Professor Garri Raagmaa (PhD), University of Tartu
Professor Markku Sotarauta (PhD), University of Tampere, Finland
Research Fellow Riin Savi (PhD), Tallinn University of Technology
In recent decades, scholars and policy makers have seen increasing regional polarization throughout Europe. This thesis focuses on the role of place leadership in places dealing with the effects of polarization, in so-called peripheral places. It explores what is still left of the promise of leadership when understood in the less bright contexts of peripheral places. This research uses qualitative methods and grounded theory to develop a critical understanding of place leadership in peripheral places of Estonia and the Netherlands. The results show the diversity in understandings on the concept of leadership and moves to a more interpretive reading of place leadership. Interesting is also the diversity of actors involved in leadership practices, of which some are quite distant but decisive in development of the places. Furthermore, the research shows the importance of place leadership in negotiating multiplicity, which was especially clear in leadership practices focusing on image making. The research also shows that in all cases resources are critical for place leadership to develop. A failure to recognize these structural environments surrounding place leadership fails in a true understanding of leadership in places. Overall, this research has shown that when applying a critical and open approach to place leadership, we can move beyond a functionalistic approach of leadership, in which disharmonies, negotiations and local understandings of leadership can be brought more into the picture. Furthermore, in this sense, the promise of leadership for peripheral places can be more contextualised. The results not only point to a greater and more critical understanding of place leadership, but moreover also has implications that are relevant for academics as well as policy makers. By critically examining the concept of place leadership and being aware of the underlying normative assumptions, place leadership can be understood in a more open and context- sensitive way.